Meditation looks so simple.
But now that I’ve been teaching meditation and yoga for more than twelve years and reflecting on my practice, I realise how hard it is to meditate.
For example, how many times has this happened to you?
You have gone to bed, determined to wake up earlier the following morning and meditate.
Only to oversleep and not have time?
So, you jump out of bed and tell yourself that you’ll do it later because right now, you have too much to do and are already running late for work?
However, for the rest of the day, something else pops up whenever you think about meditating.
- Your house is too noisy.
- You’re expecting a parcel delivery.
- Your puppy/children/boss/family/friends (insert the distraction!) demand your attention. Now.
- You have too much going on.
- You can’t find a clear space to practice because your home is cluttered.
- You can’t relax.
- You’re too hungry.
And when you finally say, “this is it”, and get ready to meditate, your brain is tired.
You can’t decide what meditation app to use and spend ten minutes anxiously scrolling through the apps on your phone, looking for something to do.
It’s all too much.
So you go to bed frustrated, exhausted, and determined to find time tomorrow to meditate.
Does any of that ring a bell?
I know it does for me because those are the challenges I faced when I first started meditating.
And, ten-plus years on, I still face those challenges.
I still oversleep.
I still overthink.
I still get overwhelmed.
So, I understand what you are going through and where you are coming from when you say meditation is hard and doesn’t work for you!
Meditation is hard!
Most people give up because it is stressful learning how to meditate.
Fortunately, I have had excellent, wise teachers who guide me along the way. And over the years, I have learnt skills and techniques that gently support me and the individuals I teach to meditate in a way that works best for us.
So, read on, and discover how to have an easier time meditating — even if you are tired, have too much to do and believe it doesn’t work for you.
Here are the eight essential questions to ask yourself BEFORE you meditate
Admitabilty, adding something else to your plate seems counterproductive, especially if you are pressed for time.
I get that.
However, over the years, I have learned that most people, myself included, who want to meditate fail because we rush into practice without mentally or physically preparing ourselves to meditate.
So, I encourage you to skim the questions if you are still keen to reap the benefits of meditating yet believe it doesn’t work for you. Make a mental note of which question/s resonate most with you, discard the rest and start there.
Sometimes, one tiny shift in perspective or how we usually do something makes our whole life more manageable.
Let’s get started.
What’s your why?
A while back, when I was searching for a meditation video to do, for some reason, the video “How great leaders inspire action” by Simon Sinek popped up in my feed.
Naturally, I got distracted (smile) and watched the video.
The concept Simon Sinek was talking about, “Start With Why”, was new to me.
Yet, at that moment, while scrolling through YouTube and looking at the different types of meditation for stress relief, it all made sense.
I paused and asked myself, “why am I scrolling through YouTube looking for a meditation video to watch? What was I doing?!”
Life is busy.
There are so many other things equally crucial that I could be doing with my time instead of meditating.
But the more I thought about “My Why,” the more sure I became that meditation provides me with the energy, inner peace and sense of clarity I need to stay present and focused and make often difficult decisions in my life.
What about you?
What’s your why for meditating?
Explore this as much as you wish to see if your why shifts your motivation or inspiration to meditate.
What attracts you to a particular style of meditation or teacher?
Learning how to meditate through a personal referral or someone you can trust who meditates is usually easier.
Alternatively, you can Google something like “meditation for beginners” or “how to meditate” and see what the search brings up.
Plus, today, especially since Covid, most meditation teachers offer online meditation lessons and courses and have a website.
So go ahead.
Check out their About Page to understand what led them to teach meditation. Where they trained, and what other areas of professional study they have done.
Also, while scrolling through their website, check out:
- How long has the teacher been teaching meditation?
- Whether they have a personal practice,
- Where they trained and
- What other areas of professional study have they done to improve their teaching skills?
And if you find the teachings support your Why, go ahead and spend more time there.
I believe when starting, the best way to get a sense of a teacher’s approach to meditation is to try to stick with their meditations for at least seven days.
However, one of my teachers recommends doing the same meditation for at least 40 days to savour the depth of the practice.
I realise this sounds a lot and perhaps even harder to some. Still, I’ve found that the more routinely I use a technique, such as breathing meditation, the easier it is to concentrate and notice the subtle shifts in my attitude.
How much time do you have available?
To successfully learn anything, we must invest time, dedication and energy.
Meditation is no exception.
Suppose you know you have a very packed schedule and have no time to attend a regular class. In that case, it may be better to invest in an online home study programme or use a meditation app where you can meditate at your own pace and in your own time.
If you’re unfamiliar with meditation apps, you might find the following three articles helpful, which provide reviews of some of the more well-known meditation applications.
- The Six Best Meditation Apps of 2022
- The Best Meditation Apps to Help With Anxiety
- The 16 Best Meditation Apps for Anxiety, Depression, and Worry
And, in case you are wondering, I also use meditation apps as part of my meditation practice as I enjoy listening to other meditation teachers.
My current go-to meditation apps are:
Liberate: I love their focus on meditations and talks designed explicitly for Black People and People of the Global Majority.
Insight Timer: Thankfully, Insight Timer has simplified its interface. I appreciate their short ten-day mindfulness and meditation courses and, of course, the timer.
The Shine app: More recently, before bed, I have been listening to meditations and using the journal feature of the Shine app. I appreciate their focus on self-care for women and ways we can use meditation to improve our mental well-being.
Alternatively, you may prefer more structure and support to meditate because you are so busy.
If this is the case, go through this article’s other seven essential questions. And then, sign up for a live online or in-person session that aligns with your values and offers meditation at set times during the day and dedicate that time to meditating.
How experienced are you at meditating?
Meditating is simpler if you are a seasoned practitioner with a dedicated practice and understanding of meditation.
However, it can be challenging to avoid the mistakes that keep you stuck from practising if you are new, just getting started, or coming back after a sabbatical.
In this case, a beginner’s class may be your most straightforward choice.
A quick Google search will show hundreds of meditation classes and beginners’ choices.
Confusing, I know.
So, take your time, practice discernment and know that meditation is a skill, and there are many paths and techniques available to help make it a part of your day.
Most beginner courses are structured to overview the different meditation techniques and when to use them. Plus, if it’s a live online or in-person class, you’ll also have the support, connection and accountability from others in a similar position.
What else is going on in your life?
One of the reasons people struggle to meditate is that we are busy and have complex demands and daily duties, which often clash with our desire for more peace and calm.
So be realistic.
Are you struggling to meditate because you are going through a particularly stressful time and can’t settle: maybe a divorce, job insecurity, being a new parent, caring for ageing parents, and not having the headspace to meditate?
Deep down, you know meditating will help you feel better, but your mind is full, and you can’t think clearly.
Then choose a course or teacher that offers personal support, guidance and accountability to help you meditate in a way that helps to support you with what you are going through.
For instance, I began caring for my elderly parents two years ago when Covid started.
At first, it felt OK, yet over the following year, I struggled with this unexpected change. I became impatient, irritable and irritated with everyone and berated myself for feeling this way.
I recognised what was happening.
My practice — and self-care needed to shift. Again.
That’s one of the joys — and potential downfalls for meditation beginners.
Once the foundational beginner skills are locked in, there are many techniques to focus on.
So, over the last 18 months, taking my advice, I’ve signed up for two excellent mindfulness meditation courses.
Participating in the courses and applying the techniques in daily life gave me the space, support and time I needed to explore what was going on physiological and emotionally; and learn/refresh my self-care and compassion skills.
Plus, the group support and accountability helped me stick with doing the meditation exercises and homework! And the self-compassion and mindfulness skills strengthened my daily breath-based meditation practice.
When is the best time of day for you to meditate?
Check what your daily schedule is like.
When do you have the most energy and capacity for meditation during the day?
It is hard to stay calm and focused when you are tired and worn out.
Like the boy monk in this video, it is easy to nod off when tired!
To help you find out the easiest time to meditate, I encourage you to track your time for a week.
At the end of the week, review your tracked activity and use this overview to see where you could pick a time to meditate.
For example, I love ATracker, a time tracking app, as a tool to help me manage my time.
I noticed my energy was still low for weeks after testing positive for Covid a few months ago. I was still trying to care for my parents and do everything else.
As a result, my morning meditation suffered because I felt drained all the time, particularly when I woke up.
To see how I spent my day, I used ATracker post-Covid to record my daily activities for a week.
After reviewing my results, I intentionally adjusted my schedule. I identified points in my day to do more nourishing self-compassion practices, which helped to restore my energy and sense of kindness for myself and others.
Where is the best place for you to meditate?
Meditation is a deeply personal journey.
Choosing an area where you feel safe and secure enough to meditate is preferable.
That’s why most people prefer to meditate in a space where they can practice without external distractions, from family, pets, colleagues, or outside noise.
So, before you meditate, look around your environment, notice the place you choose to practice and ask yourself, “how comfortable and convenient is it for me to practice here?”
Some people like to create a Special Sacred Space and use it exclusively to meditate. They light candles, play soft music, read an inspirational verse and look at images of loved ones as part of their meditation time.
Others will take what they have and sit in a chair, side of the bed, or even in their car if that’s more convenient and they can practice undisturbed.
For example, when I first started to meditate, my three children were all under ten years of age.
And I had to get creative and find a space and time to practice.
The only way I could find a clear and (relatively) quiet space back then was by sitting on the side of my bed when they were asleep.
Or after dropping them off at the school, I occasionally waited in the car for five minutes to catch my breath.
Other times, when they were watching TV, I would sit at the top of the stairs, take three mindful breaths, repeat a few affirmations, and then go downstairs and watch TV with my children.
They weren’t ideal settings.
But as soon as I sat in those positions, I felt the tension ease from my shoulders, and I could sit quietly -undisturbed for a few minutes of “Mummy’s Quiet Time.”
Whose voice are you listening to?
One of the most challenging hurdles to overcome is the negative chatter in our heads when we decide to take time for ourselves.
In our society, there is a narrative that demands that we work nonstop.
Even while meditation can increase our productivity, it is simple to slip into the habit of putting everyone else’s needs before our own and neglecting to rest and meditate.
Learning to ignore the voice of others and become more aware of what your body is saying to you, I encourage you to give yourself permission to rest and meditate so that you can take better care of yourself.
Next time you notice you aren’t taking time to meditate, check what voice you are listening to and remember your why.
As you can see, meditation is more challenging than it looks.
It looks simple yet requires effort, time, patience, and a great deal of discernment, especially when life gets in the way, and you feel stuck and undecided about what to do.
Next time you notice you are putting off meditation, be gentle with yourself.
Think back to your responses to the above questions and see what needs to shift to enable you to find the time to practice.
You got this.
I would love to hear about your experience with meditation.
Please feel to let me know in the comments!
And if you struggle with meditating, most of us do, you’re invited to sign up for my free weekly-ish newsletter Restore Hope, for practical tips to nurture yourself and restore hope in the world.
You can get started by clicking here. Thank you.
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